German foreign minister talks Libya on UAE visit

German foreign minister talks Libya on UAE visit
Germany's top diplomat Heiko Maas travelled on to the United Arab Emirates after a visit to Libya in which he warned of a 'deceptive calm'.
3 min read
19 August, 2020
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Libya and the UAE [Anadolu/Getty]

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas discussed the situation in war-torn Libya with the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on Tuesday.

The two diplomats discussed strategic ties and ways to strengthen cooperation in trade, education and food security on Maas' visit to Abu Dhabi, The National reported.

The news outlet reported that the pair discussed the latest developments in Libya and Lebanon, as well as Covid-19 countermeasures taken by both the UAE and Germany.

The Tuesday meeting follows Maas' visit to war-torn Libya's capital on Monday, in which he warned of a "deceptive calm" since fighting has stalled around the strategic town of Sirte.

Outside powers are "continuing to massively arm the country," Maas, whose government has tried to broker peace in Libya, said during a surprise visit to the oil-rich North African nation.

"In Libya at the moment we are observing a deceptive calm," he said in Tripoli, seat of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Eastern-based rogue General Khalifa Haftar launched a massive assault to seize Tripoli from the internationally-recognised GNA in April 2019.

After 14 months of fierce fighting, forces loyal to the GNA expelled Haftar's troops from much of western Libya and pushed them back east to Sirte, a gateway town to Libya's oil fields.

While the GNA has been boosted by Turkish and Qatari support, Haftar has had the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Read also: Russia and Turkey on collision course in Libya’s conflict

Now, said Maas, "both sides and their international allies are continuing to massively arm the country and holding firm to their preconditions for a ceasefire".

Maas urged them to find ways out of "this very dangerous situation" and backed a UN proposal to establish a demilitarized zone around Sirte, some 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of Tripoli.

He said he had discussed this idea with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Interior Minister Fathi Bachagha.

Before Germany's top diplomat travelled on to his next stop the United Arab Emirates, he said the country had "shown that it has the ability to make an important contribution to peace in the region".

Maas added that now he also hoped "to see encouraging signs from Abu Dhabi on the issue of Libya". 

He said the United Arab Emirates, one of Haftar's main backers which last week agreed to normalise diplomatic relations with Israel, "is in a position to influence General Haftar"

"We expect it to do so, in the spirit of the Berlin Process," he said, referring to a January peace conference. 

"Only those who participate in a political process will be part of Libya's future," Maas added.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Qatar's Minister of State for Defence, Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, were also in Tripoli on Monday.

In a joint meeting with Sarraj, they discussed "the latest developments in Libya and the military mobilisation east of Sirte and in the Al-Jufra region", according to the GNA media office.

On his visit, top German diplomat Maas he also wanted to discuss the fate of migrants stuck in detention centres, where human rights groups have reported widespread abuses and mistreatment.

"For a long time we have been calling for the closure of the detention centres and the establishment of alternatives in urban regions," he said, calling for "effective measures to finally combat human trafficking networks".

Agencies contributed to this report.

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